JOHANNESBURG, July 5 – Nearly 15 years ago Nelson Mandela was unperturbed by his own death, telling a dying teenager that he had lived his life to the full.
The video dating from 1998, broadcast by American news channel CBS on Thursday as Mandela remained critically ill in hospital, showed the towering South African statesman visiting a 15 year old, also named Nelson.
“Understanding the fact that I’m near the end, I remain optimistic with my morale very high, because I’m saying I have lived my life,” the statesman, then 80, told the teen, who was dying of brain cancer.
In the amateur video the boy, his head shaved, smiled shyly from his bed at the peace icon, who wore one of his colourful trademark shirts.
Posters of cars adorned the wall next to where the then president sat holding a teacup.
“If your spirit is not optimistic, your morale is not high, medicine is not very effective,” the then president said.
The boy died under three months after the visit.
Broadcast as the 94 year old nears one month in hospital, the words carry added poignancy.
According to court documents from Mandela family lawyers, filed nine days ago, doctors believed Mandela was in a “permanent vegetative state” and they advised his family to turn off his life support machine.
South Africa’s presidency has since said his condition has improved and on Thursday denied he is in a vegetative state.